A bill filed in the Missouri Senate that aims to eliminate solid waste districts throughout the state could pose a danger to funding environmental programs in the area if the legislation passes, a local sold waste district official said.
Under Senate Bill 13, sponsored by state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, instead of solid waste districts – consisting of local leaders and elected officials – allocating grant funds to local needs, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff would make those decisions on a statewide basis.
"Our concern, locally, is that if the districts are eliminated and those funds revert back to DNR, we will lose a lot of local control over where the grant monies go, and we just feel as a district that the local folks are more in tune to where the needs are in our area," said Brady Wilson, chairman of the Ozark Rivers Solid Waste Management District (ORSWMD), which covers Phelps, Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Pulaski and Washington counties.
Wilson also serves as director of the Rolla Recycling Center and the City of Rolla's environmental services department.
Currently, a portion of a tipping fee levied at landfills throughout the state and administered by the DNR is distributed to solid waste districts for local grant programs.
These grant programs help promote waste reduction, reuse and recycling efforts on a local level. Since 2007, ORSWMD has awarded $1.48 million to 64 local sub-grantees in its seven-county area for programs that have a positive impact on the environment.
If Senate Bill 13 were to become law, these funds would stay with the DNR, which would then administer a grant program.
In the last five years, 190.9 tons of appliances and electronic waste have been recycled, 70 illegal dumpsites have been cleaned and 173.3 tons of illegally dumped tires have been recycled in the district.
Residents of the seven-county area can safely dispose of car batteries, muriatic acid and other household hazardous waste at no cost in Rolla or St. Robert.
Since 2009, 1,118 students and 50 teachers have toured recycling centers, transfer stations and landfills, and since 2010, 5,596 students have been inspired by presentations about recycling and composting delivered by professional educators. (See sidebar for grants awarded to Rolla, St. James, Phelps County and district-wide programs and projects over the last two years.)
"In rural areas, it can still be a struggle to keep recycling programs going and growing," said Tammy Snodgrass, Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) assistant director and environmental programs manager.
The ORSWMD contracts with MRPC for administration and implementation of district programs.
"The local district grant program has been critical to the success of our rural programs. Moving administration of those grant dollars to the state level will likely result in fewer grants, with most of the funding going to urban areas," Snodgrass added.
Page 2 of 3 - Snodgrass said the regional planning effort would also be lost.
"For example, the district spreads its special collections over seven counties so that everyone has access. However, with state grants, you could have two cities in one county be awarded grants for electronic collections and no other collections offered," she said.
Established programs in the area may also lose sustainability if Senate Bill 13 is passed. Based on the ORSWMD plan, the local board established programs — like the hazardous household waste drop-off sites — and sustained them because they are not financially feasible for private industries to offer. With a statewide grant program, sustainability beyond one year is not likely.
Schaefer stated in a Jan. 29 hearing for the bill that he would like to see the grant funds used for projects like bio-reactor landfills. The funds were created to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills – not to build more landfills, Snodgrass pointed out.
Below is a list of projects and programs funded over the last two years through the ORSWMD to Rolla, St. James, Phelps County as well as district-wide:
• Missouri University of Science and Technology was the recipient of $9,550 for the Phyto Forensics Recycling project for recycling bins and carts for the university’s recycling program.
• Phelps County was the recipient of $12,131.20 for the Phelps County Tough on Trash program for litter and dump cleanup in the county.
• St. James was the recipient of $30,184.20 for curbside recycling in the city.
• Rolla was the recipient of $2,250 for traveling billboards.
• MRPC, Rolla and St. Robert were the recipients of $26,958.50 for household waste collections for two satellite collection sites which benefits the entire district.
• The district was the recipient of $13,611 for a waste tire collection for transport and recycling of tires collected by counties district-wide.
• The district was the recipient of $24,012.85 for special waste collections of tires, electronics and appliances district-wide.
• The district was the recipient of $23,220.20 for compost education program for professional educator to do recycling education programs in schools district-wide.
• The district was the recipient of $15,405.70 to cleanup illegal dump sites district-wide.
• The district was the recipient of $7,129.15 for bins for school recycling programs district-wide.
• Missouri S&T was the recipient of $6,790 for the Phyto Forensics Recycling project for recycling bins and carts for the university’s recycling program.
• Rolla was the recipient of $5,620 for city recycle bins.
• Phelps County was the recipient of $13,017.82 for the Phelps County Tough on Trash program for litter and dump cleanup in the county.
• MRPC, Rolla and St. Robert were the recipients of $22,688.40 for household waste collections for two satellite collection sites which benefits the entire district.
Page 3 of 3 - • The district was the recipient of $14,000 for a waste tire collection for transport and recycling of tires collected by counties district-wide.
• The district was the recipient of $35,901.80 for special waste collections of tires, electronics and appliances district-wide.